Brother KH601 knitting machine

Brother KH601 is an 8-push-button standard-gauge (4.5 mm between needles) Japanese knitting machine manufactured in the very early 1970s. It is a standard gauge with 200 needles.

I finally had a chance yet to work on this machine and I liked it a lot!!! Here is the video of my tests and the article about that particular machine.

In general, Brother KH601 it is almost identical (in functions) to Brother KH588 and Brother KH710. Brother KH601 differs from KH585 by its color and by its plastic end caps. From KH710, KH601 differs by color. Yes, KH601 has the prettiest color combo in my opinion – emerald green, similar to the younger sister – Brother KH800. Even the row counter and the claw weights are of this emerald green color. talking about the row counter: it is NOT a vintage one, like in its earlier counterpart Brother KH581 but a more advanced one that I see in later models and like Brother Profile 552 and other 8-push button machines. These newer row counter models can still be purchased on the new-part market (for example in my store) whereas the vintage ones like Profile 551 and KH581 can only be purchased on the used market (if you are lucky to even find one).

Thus, Brother KH601 comes with a standard set of major accessories, stored in the lid: extension rails, lace carriage, cast-on combs and a yarn guide mast.

The end-caps are not plastic (like later Brother knitting machines) but metal, which makes them more robust and less prone to breaking (especially during shipment and transport) and UV-exposure damage.

There is one more feature that makes KH601 stand out… It is a sliding holding cam lever (the slider right below the tension dial with the numbers 1 through 5). I’ve only seen a similar mechanism on some Empisal knitting machines and on Brother KH800. If your carriage does not seem to be working correctly, you can refer to this article on common problems with the Brother knitting machine carriages.

Brother KH601 model seems to be released to both Japanese and Western markets: look at the carriages above – there are varieties with only English writing and with both, Japanese and English symbols.

The pattern center includes eight needle selection buttons, a reset button (the blue button right before button #1), a reverse lever, a slide dial, and a set lever. The role of the set lever (the one that is rotated with the ratchet tool) is to bring the needles forward: you push the corresponding buttons and then rotate the set lever with a ratchet and the needles move forward to C position. By rotating the ratchet to the off position, the buttons return to the unpushed position. Another option is to push the reset button to deselect the working pushbuttons. The role of the reverse lever is that: for example, you want to select needles 2 through 8. So, you simply push button #1, turn the reverse lever to B, and rotate the set lever: all but needles in position 1 will be brought forward.

The role of the slide dial (controlled with the L/R knob) is to shift the needle selection. For example, a pattern requires the selection of needles 1 and 5, then 2 and 6, then 3 and 8. Instead of pushing and unpushing the corresponding buttons (like what you would do on earlier 4-pushbutton models), you simply push buttons 1 and 5 and then simply move the slide dial to the corresponding number of places. If you move the dial only once, needles 2 and 6 will be selected even though buttons 1 and 5 are still pushed in. If you move the slide dial two places, then (even though the buttons 1 and 5 are pushed in) needles in positions 3 and 7 will be moved forward.

The additional patterning is accomplished by moving and holding the cam lever in positions I, II, or III and by pressing pattern selector buttons. Details of fair-isle knitting for this machine, especially how to insert the second yarn into the side yar guide, are very similar to the KH800 knitting machine, which is described well in my video and blog.

Brother KH601 comes with a standard set of minor accessories, which are stored in a special box with a lid.

The handles for the main and lace carriages are removable (screw-on) and can be placed inside the case in a specially allocated space. Mast, sinker plate, and cast-on combs also have allocated places inside the lid. The storage box sits on the left-hand side of the bed.

Other optional accessories/add-ons/attachments that can be fitted with this machine are pretty scarce. I have not personally tested but KR586 and 587 might be compatible with Brother KH585. However, I personally tested the Brother KR580 ribbing attachment with this machine (and recorded a video as well).

There are some indications in the manual that a knit leader KL111 might be compatible with this and other 8-push button machines. The manual for the knitleader KL113 also clearly states that it will fit the Brother Profile 585 machine.

The needles for Brother Profile 585 as well as all push-button machines are of interesting shape and can only be purchased on the used market. I have some in my store.

Table clamps are S-shaped, unlike later Brother knitting machine models. The head of the “S” is smaller than for similar ribber clamps.

PROS:

(+) The bed is narrow which makes the overall setup compact, very light, and easy to handle.

(+) The carriage is very easy to slide across the bed

(+) Excellent for beginners and those who transition from hand-knitting to machine-knitting.

(+) Relatively easy to deep clean – all parts are mechanical and straightforward, so it is easy to assemble and disassemble if deep cleaning is needed

(+) Nice green color, which makes it stand out.

(+) More advanced than just a manual/basic model since the needles can be moved forward in a predetermined pattern.

(+) The presence of the pattern center offers many combinations of needle selection to make the knitter’s life easier

(+) The standard setup comes with a lace carriage. I heard from some knitters that knitting lace on 8-pushbutton machines creates one of the best-looking lace patterns…. Just heard – have not knitted enough lace to compare myself…

(+) Compatible with several ribber models and with KL111 knit leader, also available in my store.

(+) A significant advantage of this machine relative to its later counterparts (pushbutton, punchcard and electronic knitting machines) is all metal parts (with the exception of some small knobs and levers). Thus, no UV damage and discoloration to the main parts of the machine (unlike later models, in which UV damage, aging and the resulting discoloration of carriage plastic panels, end-caps and top panels can be quite significant).

CONS:

(-) Parts are only available on the used market.

(-) Unique needles that can only be purchased on a used marked

(-) Two- and more color fair isle knitting as well as other patterning requires a lot of manual manipulation and color switching. It is, however, typical for manual and push-button knitting machines.

(-) Some might find the machine too simple – yes, it has only limited patterning capabilities. However, with manual needle selection and yarn manipulation, the possibilities are endless, which is kind of a big plus to artists and hand-knitters who just transitioned to machine knitting and not ready yet to give up the feeling of satisfaction of hand-manipulating the stitches.

(-) the HCL in the center of the carriage (right under the tension dial) is not as intuitive to use as the side HCLs in other pushbutton machines. The manual, in my opinion, also does not describe it clearly enough.

Overall Brother KH601 similarly to other 8-puhbutton machines is a very robust mechanical machine that will continue to serve knitters for years especially if kept indoors with humidity and temperature control.

Brother manufactured also other standard-gauge 8-push button knitting machines: Profile 552, KH560, KH561, KH581, KH583, (Profile) KH585, KH587, KH588, and Genie KH710. Brother 8-pushbutton knitting machines are very often available in my store for purchase.

If you like this type of patterning mechanics but would like versatility, check out the Brother KH800 knitting machine: it has the same ratchet-based needle selection mechanism but it is actually punch-card based (thus, more unique needle combinations with 12-stitch repeat).

Don’t forget to check out the fun and beginner-friendly projects that can be done easily on any machine.